Summertime Safety

Hey y’all, happy Thursday! Tomorrow is the first day of May, and although summer doesn’t technically begin until June 20, it already feels like summer in my soul – and my backyard (hello Alabama warmth, I’ve missed you!) As we embark on the warmest time of year, I thought it might be a good time to refresh ourselves on summer safety tips as we plan for those backyard barbecues, beach and lake days, and more time spent outdoors in general!

Did you know that the number one weather-related killer in the United States is heat? It’s important to know your risks and understand how to protect yourself during extreme heat. Some safety tips include:

  • Find air conditioning. AC is the strongest protective factor against heat illness.
  • Avoid strenuous activities. If you do plan to do something active, such as take a hike, on a hot day, make sure that you’re prepared! Dress appropriately in moisture-wicking clothing. Bring plenty of food and about 2 cups of water for each hour you plan to hike. It’s also handy to have a first-aid kit and navigational tools.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Drink plenty of water – don’t wait until you are thirsty. If you don’t like the taste of water, try cutting up fresh fruit to add into it!
  • Never leave children, disabled or elderly adults, or pets in a closed car.
    • On average, 38 kids die each year by being left in a vehicle, with over 88% of those being 3 years old and under. 100% of these deaths can be avoided. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies have not developed the ability to efficiently regulate internal temperature. Remember, Look Before You Lock!
    • Animals can die of heat stroke within 15 minutes, and cracking the car windows doesn’t help. If you can’t take your pets in with you where you’re going, leave them at home.
    • If the outside temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside the car can reach 99 degrees in 10 minutes, 109 degrees in 20 minutes, 114 degrees in 30 minutes, and 123 degrees in 60 minutes!
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors during heat waves
  • Know that even after the sun goes down, heat can be a real danger – especially in large cities. Dark pavement and buildings are very effective at absorbing heat, and upper floors of brick buildings are particularly susceptible to the dangers of excessive heat without air conditioning because they retain heat even after the sun has gone down. This limits people’s ability to cool down and recover before the heat the next day.
  • Learn the symptoms of excessive heat exposure and the appropriate responses. Feel free to download and print the graphic below to display at your workplace!

While we are talking about heat, this seems like a good time to bring up sun safety! The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Anytime you are outdoors, remember to apply plenty of sunscreen and reapply every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

Remember how I said heat is the leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the US? That’s true…but the leading cause of weather-related fatalities varies widely across different areas of the United States, according to a study done by Ian Livingston, who is a meteorologist and co-founder of UStornadoes.com. He created the map below by using data from NOAA’s Storm Events Database and focusing on a 20-year time frame from 1999-2018.

The reds from Texas and the southwest stand out, and that color correlates to heat. Similarly the pinks, which represent avalanches, stand out in Alaska and portions of the Northwest. When you think about it, these both “make sense” relative to the geography and weather normally experienced in those areas. But did you notice the teal color that popped up in portions of the Great Lakes? That color – also found along the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and portions of the Mid-Atlantic and California coastlines – represents rip currents, which is another deadly summer hazard that we should all be aware of. The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) estimates that over 100 people die each year due to rip currents in the US.

Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of water in the surf zone that move quickly away from shore. Moving at speeds of up to eight feet per second (or 5 miles per hour!), rip currents can move faster than an Olympic swimmer. If you get caught in a rip current, try to remain calm, and do not swim against the current. Instead, swim out of the current, and then to shore.

As you prepare to head out to the ocean or the lake, remember that there can be a drastic difference between air temperatures and water temperatures. Even though it may be warm outside, the water can be very cold. Cold water is very efficient at cooling your body temperature to dangerously-low levels; body heat can be lost 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Research shows that many drowning incidents may be the result of cold shock response and cold incapacitation. Even strong swimmers can lose muscle control in about 10 minutes in cold water. The only difference between life and death in cold water may be your life jacket.

As we are beginning to spend more time outdoors, whether on the water, out hiking or camping, spending time at lcoal carnivals and festivals, or just at your local park, it’s especially important to be on the lookout for thunderstorms this time of year. Before you leave your home, be aware of the forecast and know how you will receive weather watches and warnings. Identify where the nearest shelter is located, and if the skies turn threatening, seek shelter immediately. However, thunderstorms can produce heavy rain, which may lead to flooding. If you are driving to the nearest shelter, watch out for water of an unknown depth – it only takes 6 inches of flowing water to knock over a person, and 12 inches to carry away a car. If you can’t see the road, Turn Around Don’t Drown!

As a refresher, a severe thunderstorm WARNING means TAKE ACTION. A severe thunderstorm WATCH means BE PREPARED. If there is a severe thunderstorm watch, stay informed and be ready to act, because severe thunderstorms are possible. If there is a severe thunderstorm warning, it means severe weather is occurring or will occur shortly. Take shelter in a strong building, and get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds (if not anchored correctly).

We hope you have a safe and fun summer!

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